High-Quality Complementary Learning Programs and Activities

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Philadelphia Academy of Performing Arts
Philadelphia, PA
Capital: Cultural, Human, Social

The Philadelphia Academy of Performing Arts targets fourth- and fifth-grade students in economically impoverished areas. The program started four years ago with the mission of providing quality arts education for children whose families cannot afford extracurricular activities. The service is provided through schools that have 21st Century Community Learning Centers funding.

As a group, participants in the program choose the year's theme and relate it to dance, drama, art, and music. Past topics have included fairy tales, bullying, and the Harlem Renaissance. Students coordinate the project from the very beginning stages. Project leaders are assigned for each area so everyone builds ownership for the success of the program. After the topic has been selected, the students write a play and learn dances and music that are relevant to the given theme.

Students work in the areas in which they are most comfortable. If a student prefers to work backstage, that student may help with set building and props, type the script, work on public relations activities such as creating the program, or help design costumes.

During the course of the year, students also learn how to use resources such as the library and movies. They have opportunities to work with and learn from professional artists and to visit art museums. At the end of the year, the participants invite family members, classmates, and friends to attend their performance. The Philadelphia Academy of Performing Arts partners with the Philadelphia Community College for various events and the use of their auditorium.

Program staff believe that the most important impact of the program on the community is that it gives children an outlet other than violence. Students learn the arts, which requires discipline. In addition, students improve their behavior in school, become more focused, and develop as leaders in their neighborhoods.

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